This week, I asked the churches of the Diocese of Gloucester to pray for all those who work in the NHS. This was not a political statement but rather a simple recognition that many people are under great pressure at the moment.
I have lost count of the number of the people I’ve spoken to recently who work in health care and who say they are struggling. One person has been covering two posts for the past eighteen months because the Trust they work for have not been able to recruit anyone to a role in their department. Another is a GP who helps to provide out-of-hours cover and discovered recently they were the only person covering the whole of the county.
And newspapers have been full of stories of emergency departments declaring a ‘major incident’ because of the very large number of people coming to them.
I stress that I am not making a political point here. All the main political parties are committed to the flourishing of the NHS. But my concern is for the thousands of employees who are simply feeling the stress and strain of a system that is struggling to cope with the changes sweeping across our society.
We know that our society is aging. With all the amazing advances in medical science, we are now able to live longer but the cost is higher demand on health care services. Similarly there have been changes in expectations. Services have been so good for so long, that we now expect instant cures for all sorts of problems.
We do need to stop and ask ourselves the difficult question about where all this is going. How will we fund health care for the whole population as we grow ever older and our expectations continue to rise?
But alongside these difficult questions, we also need to care for the people caught in the middle of the debate – those on the front line.
I am a big fan of the TV programme 24 Hours in A&E. It showcases the extraordinary dedication, hard work and kindness of staff in our hospitals. One newspaper write-up put it like this: “This series could carry on indefinitely without ever losing its impact. Week after week, it reminds me of things that I need to be reminded of constantly. Every moment of every day is precious. There are total strangers out there whose immense kindness is coupled with immense skill. Love is not a cliché or an abstraction but a force infinitely more potent and enduring than rage. Everyone is unique, everyone matters and lots of people are incredibly funny.”
So I have asked all our churches in Gloucestershire to pray for those who work in health care. This is just one way of showing concern for those who work on the front line and who do, what is at times, emotionally draining work.
There are many other ways we could show support. Simple acts of kindness to those we come across in GP surgeries or those we speak to on the phone. Showing our appreciation whenever we can.
But you may also like to join us in saying this simple prayer:
your Son Jesus Christ healed the sick and gave them new life;
be with all doctors, nurses, carers and chaplains
as they act as agents of healing,
and be with all who support their work in our health services;
Give them strength each day for the work you have called them to;
in difficult times give them wisdom, love and compassion;
and be close to them in their weariness and in their tears;
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,